The Stump of Jesse

9 December 2007. 2nd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11, 1-10; Psalm 72; Rom 15, 4-9; Matthew 3, 1-12

The season of Advent is a season of hopeful preparation. With the Philippines opening its Christmas bazaars and tiangges as early as September, and Christmas carols dominate the airwaves as the holidays approach, people prepare for Christmas early. The “BER months” (SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, DecemBER) as we call these months acknowledge an element of preparation: time. We begin by planning the things to do for the season: how many Christmas cards to buy and whom to send them; what gifts to have for our families, friends and godchildren; how much money we need to save for the most joyful season of the year.

God also needed time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. We believe that the whole Old Testament is a period of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is God’s way of getting ready for Jesus: Mary was conceived without original sin because she would be the vessel of the son of God. The four candles in the Advent wreath symbolize four centuries of waiting. To our ancestors, it symbolized four thousand years since Adam and Eve.

Second, any preparation needed certain things to be done. When we cook, the ingredients should all be on the table. When we study, the books we need should be within reach. When we apply for a job, all the documents needed have been accomplished. In other words, all the details, the nitty-gritty are all in place. Usually, disaster happens when we have overlooked a detail, or one material needed has not been secured. In our spiritual lives, we prepare our hearts and soul for the coming of Christ. We can do this though prayer and reflection: the advent wreath is suppose to help our hearts.

However, preparation is always for something. To prepare is to move towards the object and reason for the it. To get ready for the big day --- for instance, the visit of a person we care about or who is important in our careers. When we prepare, we hope. We project ourselves to the future. Our studies for our future careers; our job applications for the future of our families; ingredients for a hot chicken soup for the family’s table on rainy days.

The same way with Advent. The advent wreath was adapted from the Germanic peoples who would make evergreen wreaths during the long, dark and cold days of December. The candles would symbolize their hope for a brighter and warmer days. They would decorate wheels to implore the gods to turn the wheel of the seasons to spring. Hope then is constitutive of Advent. This is what the first reading from Isaiah tells us: when all has been cut down leaving only its stump, a shoot will sprout. In one of the darkest period in the history of Israel, they hoped for the Messiah who would be a descendant of Jesse, the father of King David. John the Baptist would be shouting from the hilltop to prepare for his coming.

We shall therefore ask these questions today. What do you hope for? And what do you do to prepare for it?

No comments: